By Ben Delaney
At any given pro bike race, there are hundreds of hard-life stories that line up at the start every day. The story of Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade), however, is unusual among them.
Coming from Rwanda, where six of his brothers were killed in the 1994 genocide, Niyonshuti got a pro contract for this year after winning the 2008 Tour of Rwanda.
Now Niyonshuti is about to start his first pro European event at the Tour of Ireland.
The 22-year-old got into cycling about six years ago, and came to the attention of American ex-pro Jock Boyer in 2006. Along with cycling legend Tom Ritchey, Boyer has been doing working in Rwanda for a few years now, importing cargo bikes for use by locals to boost local business.
Boyer is also coach of Team Rwanda. Boyer sent Niyonshuti and teammate Nathan Byukusenge to a UCI training camp in South Africa, where they were both offered pro contracts by Douglas Ryder, director of the South African MTN-Energade squad. While in South Africa, however, the pair was part of a group that was violently robbed. Niyonshuti hid in a closet and escaped harm. Byukusenge opted to go home.
“His story is full of tragedy, it’s very deep,” Boyer said. “But he’s just the nicest guy, and is very appreciative of everything he has.”
Niyonshuti said he was excited to take part in the Tour of Ireland, but since it will be his first race of this caliber, he is unsure of what to expect.
“I am very happy because it is the first time I have ridden with Tour de France riders like Lance Armstrong,” Niyonshuti said. “It is also nice for my country, and for Africa, because I am the first rider to come here.”